The Shy Museumgoer


It’s polite to stare

Titian, detail of "Venus with a Mirror" (c.1555)
Detail of Titian’s Venus with a Mirror (c.1555)

When we take the time to explore a masterful work of art, we carry with us something we didn’t have before. We take with us the artist’s view of the world. Why is this valuable? Because it increases our ability to understand a wider array of human experience. Thank you for reading The Shy Museumgoer. I promise to regularly add new stories . . .

  • On the road with Hiroshige’s other women

    On the road with Hiroshige’s other women

    Volumes have been written about Hiroshige’s evocative series “Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō” and also about the men who pursued the great road’s prurient pleasures. Today I’m looking at the women of the Tōkaidō — all of the women, not only the courtesans.

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  • Why isn’t artist Norman Lewis famous?

    Why isn’t artist Norman Lewis famous?

    Abstract Expressionism — the first uniquely American art movement to attain international influence — trumpets the limitlessness of artistic horizons. But limitless for whom? How many Black abstract expressionists can you name?

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  • Henri Matisse and that cursed armchair

    Henri Matisse and that cursed armchair

    Henri Matisse liked to paint quiet moments of repose in order to catch his breath before returning to the turmoils of life. Peace of mind is what he craved and what he wanted to bestow on us. Does it mean he wasn’t quite serious enough as an artist?

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  • Stuart Davis was hip to the jive

    Stuart Davis was hip to the jive

    Did modern artist Stuart Davis take the same passionate risks as a jazz musician? Or is that hard to bring off? Likewise, did the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra truly transform the colors, lines, and layers of a Stuart Davis painting into live music? Here’s a rare opportunity to compare notes.

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  • Sheeler, Rivera, and machine-age anxiety

    Sheeler, Rivera, and machine-age anxiety

    Charles Sheeler and Diego Rivera jumped at the chance to portray Henry Ford’s unprecedented manufacturing complex. Do their pictures celebrate the potential of machines to liberate us from drudgery? Or do they warn us about the dangers of living in a technology-driven society?

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  • Who cancelled Berthe Morisot?

    Who cancelled Berthe Morisot?

    Berthe Morisot’s brushwork was audacious, even for a French Impressionist. Nevertheless, contemporary critics reviewed her work favorably. Today she is the least-known member of this popular group of painters. The lady (almost) vanished. Where did she go?

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